How Cookies Changed The World

peppermint cookiesBaking Christmas cookies is probably my favorite thing to do this time of year. I love the way it makes my house feel warm and cozy with scents of peppermint and ginger lingering in the air. I love to spend the time with my girls in the kitchen singing Christmas songs and sneaking a taste from the bowl. The kitchen is my happy place. Typically I will share a plate of cookies with my family and friends, but this year God whispered in my ear to do a little more.

My family has lived on the same cul-de-sac with the same neighbors for over 12 years. It’s a sweet little street with the sounds of children playing and access to a nature walk. I love it here. It’s home. But as many times as I have seen my neighbors come and go for 12 years, I’ve only developed a relationship with 2 families.

This is a problem.

Love thy neighbor doesn’t mean just the ones who also have kids that play with your own. Love thy neighbor isn’t just the convenience of carpools and keeping an eye out when they go on vacation.

So, I doubled the batch of our favorite Christmas cookies, plated them up on 7 different plates and told my family that we were going to deliver them on Christmas Eve to each one of our neighbors.

“But we don’t know them!”

My point exactly.

Love thy Hindu neighbor with a drinking problem.

Love thy hoarding neighbor afraid to leave his house.

Love thy handicapped neighbor who can’t make it to the front door.

Love thy neighbor who yells at your kids for playing on their lawn.

So we did. It was a bit out of our comfort zone. My husband rang one doorbell and said, “I don’t even know this guys name! I feel bad!” And that is exactly why we were there! To learn about our neighbors.

We heard from proud parents talking about their grown children graduating college. And that the man up the street has been sick for 2 weeks. We learned that the boy 3 houses up takes pride in his cheesecake recipe and is thankful to have completed his first semester of college.

What I found most interesting was that most people felt compelled to give something back.  We got a dish of delicious Indian cookies and someone else gave us a box of chocolate turtles.  That wasn’t why we were there at all, but I got to thinking about it. Community is about give and take. Community is giving what you have to the greater good of those around you. If we all contributed in the ways we know how, how much better would this world be? What if we all lived with no expectations of receiving, but lived with just the obligation to give the love you have and spread it around?

It was a batch of Christmas cookies. I make them every year. But this year I think they will taste the best they have ever tasted because we changed up the ingredients just a little bit and added some fellowship.

 

 

 

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Winter Stillness

 

I struggle so much, especially this time of year, with having too much to do and so many places to be. I tend to think that the more I do the more God will be pleased. I feel like the more I accomplish the bigger the smiles across His holy face. Who wouldn’t like the thought of making God smile?

But the truth is that God doesn’t need me to do ANYTHING. He’s God after all. If He really needs anything He can certainly make it happen without me. I should be humbled that He even chooses to use me at all. What He really wants from me is to acknowledge who He is.

Be still and know that I am God; psalm 46:10

Did you know that isn’t the entire verse? There’s so much more!

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Can we just be still and know? If we could just be still! It doesn’t matter if you get all the presents wrapped. It doesn’t matter if you forget a side dish or skip one of the 5 Christmas parties you were invited to. Just be still and know that God’s got this whole season wrapped up in a bow. And He will be exalted!! He’s not asking us to run around doing one more thing. He’s asking us to be still and acknowledge who He is. He wants us to know what He has done for us through a tiny little baby wrapped snuggly in a manger. Can we acknowledge that miracle? Can we be still long enough to marvel at the extent of His love. He left heaven to be with us! He left heaven to die for us! I don’t know about you but there is no one in this world that I would give up heaven for! But that is the kind of God we serve. Loving and almighty.

And all He is asking is for us to be still and acknowledge it.

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Focusing On The Miracle: A Brief Thought About My Daughter

She didn’t want to go see Santa. She refused to even write him a letter. My 5th grade daughter has succumbed to the inevitable. Growing up.

Of course I am not naive enough to think that my child would be the only one immune to such a horrible fate. Growing up is no fun, but we all must do it. Since she has stopped believing, it seems that Christmas seems to have lost it’s luster. There doesn’t seem to be magic in the air. The anticipation of seeing what Santa brings seems to have vanished. What concerns me is not the loss of childhood dreams. What concerns me is that I am guilty of putting the magic of Christmas into the wrong miracle.

Even if reindeer do really fly and one man could travel the world in a single night, it’s still not as miraculous as the creator of the universe stepping out of Heaven as a helpless baby. Tiny elves making toys for every child in the world, even if true, pales in comparison to the miracle of a loving God saving the world through human flesh.

Maybe it’s a good thing my daughter is finally maturing. As much as this mother would love for her to stay little forever she’s finally getting old enough to fully understand the Gospel. She can finally begin to appreciate how beautiful and raw the true story of Christmas really is.

 

 

 

 

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Why I’m Sitting In God’s Time-Out Chair

Luxurious classical vintage armchair on white backgroundThis post has been nagging at me for weeks. It’s one I do not want to write, so I have been putting it off hoping that it will go away or that I will somehow find something else more important to write about. Don’t you want to hear about my cute kids? They are both pretty awesome! But, it seems that there is nothing more important than this right now. Every time I sit down to write about anything else, my mind goes blank or there are a million distractions. We do serve a persistent God and He’s been working on me throughout this holiday season in a big way. Quite honestly, I don’t like it.  I am being disciplined and it hurts. I don’t necessarily want to write from over here in my time-out chair, but I may be here awhile so if I want to get anything done, I don’t have much of a choice.

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it was with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. Philippians 4:12

Sometimes when I read my Bible a verse will come to life and I get so excited. It’s just what I needed to hear at exactly the right moment. I feel a peace come over me and I know I am not alone. God’s got my back. Other times I will read my Bible and quite the opposite feeling occurs. The verse still comes to life, but it slaps me in my face and I don’t feel peaceful at all. However, it’s still true that it’s exactly what I need to hear in that moment and God still has my back. I prefer feeling warm and fuzzy, but warm and fuzzy often is not transforming.  Feeling comfortable does not refine the soul. I did not get the warm fuzzies when I read Philippians 4:12 because as much as I want to say that it’s true of my walk, it’s not.

Myself and all of my loved one’s are in good health. I live in a safe and comfortable home. My pantry, my fridge and my closet are all full. My marriage is great. My kids are pretty cool. I love my job and I don’t have a shortage of friends. My life is pretty warm and fuzzy. Too warm and fuzzy. My version of Philippians 4:12 read more like, “I know how to live with everything. I have learned the secret of living when things are great, with a full stomach and plenty to choose from.” (That’s the BED inspired version). No wonder it hurt to read what I actually should be content with. And that is nothing.

Tithing for me is very hard. I struggle with giving without seeing a tangible result. And life happens. My children always seem to need money for something, something always needs replacing and, since I am being honest, I really like to shop. My husband and I mutually decided early on that I would be the one to handle the bills each month. And each month for years I have been diligent about paying everything on time. We’ve been responsible and debt free for seven years. It’s a great feeling but it’s a lot of hard work. I decided I didn’t want to work so hard anymore.

This is how I ended up in the time-out chair.

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Malachi 3:10

It started with thinking that I didn’t need to pay the tithe one month because well, I thought it would feel better to have that money for wasteful things. I wasn’t struck down by lightning that month, so I didn’t pay it again the next month. I continued with this pattern for a while. It felt good to me to have that extra money in the bank for when my children needed it for something or (gulp) when I saw something that I wanted to buy. And then Philippians 4:12. Every situation? Really?

I realized I wasn’t content with what God provides for me and my family. I was trying to make it seem as though we had more when we really didn’t. The truth is that we’ve always had plenty, I was just caught it a web of greed. It’s amazing how sticky that web is and I wanted out!

The hardest part? Confessing to my husband what I had done. After all, it’s our money. If I wasn’t tithing, he wasn’t tithing. Let me just tell you that man is full of grace and mercy when it comes to handling me and all my flaws. I pretty much got out of that conversation with a very stern look and a comforting, “I still love you, but don’t let this happen again” hug.

And then I had to start the process of cleaning up my mess. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard. Just start writing those checks again. What’s the big deal? Um, discipline hurts! I don’t know about you, but I can remember times when I screwed up as a child and my parents let me know it with a spanking. God hasn’t spanked me yet, but he sure is making me uncomfortable. Ok. You’re right. A better term is refining me. He is teaching me to rely more on Him with each bill that I pay. In every situation  I must rely on his provision and perfect timing. This has meant fewer gifts under the tree and DIY gifts for friends and family. This has meant me seeking His will and learning to be content with what I already have. And it has been so hard! I have whined.  I have complained.  I have felt sorry for myself. Which is probably the very reason why I am still waiting for the windows of Heaven to open up for me. Pretty sure I wouldn’t give my child who was still stomping her feet what she wanted either. God loves a cheerful giver and I am not there yet. I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to do things my way. But God is so amazingly cool it’s scary. Have you read the verse directly after Philippians 4:12?

And “everything” includes tithing.

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